The Badger Mountain Challenge
debuted last year in the Tri-Cities, WA with positive reviews. And since I'm always on the lookout for new races in the region, this seemed like the perfect event to kick off my big training for the big race
The 50k course is basically an out-n-back along the spine of three hills overlooking the Columbia River, so that gives us six nice climbs before the finish-line. It was mostly a mix of single-track, gravel roads, and rocky double-track.
|50k profile courtesy of race website.|
I hadn't been on a run longer than 20 miles since January, so I was treating this race as my first long run of the season. I've been trying to be more patient with my miles this year than I was last year. Last year, I ran myself into an injury two weeks before the Atacama Crossing. This year I hope to be a little more conservative with my weekly mileage.
Weather forecasts all week were predicting a lot of cold rain and high winds, so I think most of us felt a little lucky that we only felt a few drops at the start - and the sun even popped out a few times. The high winds were still there, especially on the top of the hills.
|Up the street to the trailhead.|
|Sun rising over the Columbia on the first climb.|
My buddy, Brendan, was also running the 50k (this was his first ultra and
his first trail run). We stuck together for the first few miles when I tried to hold him back from sprinting up the first hill. When we reached the top he took off. I told him I was going to play it pretty conservatively for the first half and then see what I have left in the tank for the way back. I think he was just having too much fun to hold back.
So I ran on my own for about ten miles, enjoyed the views from the hilltops, snapped some photos, focused on keeping a smooth effort, and worked on eating a GU every 40 minutes even if I didn't feel I needed one.
On the third climb (the last one before the turnaround), my power-hike was feeling pretty strong and I passed a couple people at the top. After a short jaunt along the ridge just before the downhill screamer and turnaround, I saw Brendan running back toward the trail. He and another guy had missed the downhill turn to the turnaround and ran along the ridge for another 1/4 mile or so. But he was in good spirits. We fueled up at the aid station and headed back up the hill together.
"How are you feeling?" I asked.
"This is awesome," he said.
"Yeah," I said.
|Good day for a run.|
|From one hill to another.|
|Looking up climb #3.|
|Looking east down climb #3.|
|Some rock thrown in for fun.|
After the turnaround, we passed a few guys, but I don't think either of us had any idea what place we were in. It's usually pretty easy on an out-n-back course to gage what place you're in, but near the turnaround point there were a bunch of non-race hikers, some early starters (or lead guys struggling...I wasn't sure), and even some 100-milers still out on the course, so I didn't try to pay too much attention to what place we might be sitting -- I figured it was probably around 10th place.
Brendan and I had a good time chatting and enjoying the course. When we hit the last climb I told him to run ahead if he had anything left and that I was going to hold back just a little so I can hammer the downhill to the finish (I really enjoy hammering downhills if I have any quads left). He slowly pulled away from me on the climb, and I slowly reeled him in on the downhill.
We crossed the finish-line in 4:14:52. (full results
) It wasn't until the next day when results were actually posted that we learned we tied for 5th place overall. Pretty sweet. Also, it was another PR for me. This was my fastest 50k by about two minutes. Fun day on the trails. And huge congrats to Brendan for an impressive 50k #1; I think we may have him hooked on trails. :)
|Sweet single-track on the top of Badger.|
|Near the top of Badger just before|
hammering the last downhill.
Brendan is ahead in the white shirt.
|Off the hill, waving to Annie, and rounding|
the cones to the finish-line.
|With Brendan after crossing the finish-line.|
Next up: WSU 100k on April 22. I have a score to settle with this course after it kicked my butt in 2009.